Picking out the flaws with the Dolphins rookie QB is easy, but it will be up to Ryan Tannehill and the Miami coaching staff to make sure the lessons are learned and the mistakes not repeated. J.J. Watt said it well, “Once you start to understand the quarterback’s rhythm, you see his eyes, you understand his arm motion, you can start to figure out when he’s going to throw it. I know I have long arms, and you can’t get a sack on every play, so you might as well try to knock the ball around.”
The Texans looked at the preseason game film and learned, “With a rookie quarterback in Tannehill and what we had seen in the preseason, Bill Kollar, the defensive line coach, had told us what situations to expect with the quick passing, and J.J. took advantage of it,” Connor Barwin said. According to ESPN Stats Inc., 8 of Tannehill's 15 interceptions at Texas A&M in 2011 came on tipped or batted passes, so none of this is new to Mike Sherman.
Mike Sherman insisted, “on a three step drop, it is the lineman’s responsibility,” to keep the defensive linemen from blocking the throw. Whether it’s the lineman or the QB’s responsibility is debatable and attributed differently by different coaches. The bottom line is still the same, blocked passes lead to turnovers. Lesson number one for Ryan Tannehill: find a throwing lane, because on the stats sheet, the linemen don’t get INTs.
The Dolphins converted just 2-of-10 third downs, were 0-for-3 on fourth down and did not score on any of their three trips inside the 20-yard line. Great quarterback play usually comes in the form of making things happen in critical situations. No touchdowns and only two conversions is an inauspicious beginning for Tannehill but nowhere near as rough as Brandon Weeden who ended with four picks and 5.1 QB rating… Ouch!!!
The reality is, Tannehill played better than three of the other five rookie starters, with only RG3 making a better showing. Luck threw for more yards, but he also fumbled once and Russell Wilson seemed overwhelmed by the NFL game. The game was not too big for Tannehill and he did remain poised even though the offense was mired all day by inconsistency and self induced errors.
Many times coaches preach good decision making to the point of paralyzing the offense, as could be seen by the number of throws Tannehill delivered short of the endzone on the goal line. The goal line issue comes from the same reason as the passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage, Tannehill stared down his receivers.
Quarterbacks that stare down receivers do it for one of two reasons; one is not having confidence in where receivers are supposed to be and therefore the QB waits for them to come open, the second, is lack of anticipation, not being able to throw a pass unless the receiver is in line of sight. The first reason can be overcome by learning the offense through repetitions with a fixed set of WRs. The second, is one most QBs never overcome.
Ryan Tannehill is a rookie with only 16 college starts, there is no easy way to teach a QB the speed of the NFL game or the subtle nuances professional coaches can pick out of a game film. His weakness has been exposed, he stares down his receivers and does not use his eyes to throw off both DL and the secondary.
The Miami Dolphins must see Tannehill overcome this tendency before he can reach the next level. It is also a continuity issue with the receivers because a QB and his receivers must be on the same page. There must be an ultimate level of trust before a QB will throw a pass to a spot and know his target will arrive when the ball gets there.
The expectations are high in Miami, the team has not delivered in far too long, the owner and fans are restless. Tannehill is not surrounded by great talent at WR, but his leadership and ability to overcome his own flaws is what will bring out the best in those around him. It will be a slow progression, fans have no choice but to be patient and let it play out.